Pond, lake edge and wetland fringe
A pond edge and wetland landscape that comprises part of an extensive four acre garden.
I was head gardener at this estate located in the West Midlands for a number of years. This image gives a very good idea of how a good and well maintained wetland area should look in a garden. Good access to the water for regular care and maintenance, and good plant choice for fringe planting. Contrary to general opinion, which often calls for individual ponds to be left alone with little maintenance, wetland landscapes need care and gentle handling to achieve both the best effect to the eye and for the benefit of wildlife, both above and below water. The water clarity in this image shows the importance of good submerged aquatic oxygenating plant communities that are themselves maintained well. In a new wetland water plants establish swiftly, good when you wish to create habitat and an attractive landscape quickly. However, it also means that care and good maintenance have to be equally efficient to keep up, lakes and ponds can deteriorate and become a problem without thought. This may be desirable if you are allowing the pond to naturally evolve and become marsh, followed by colonization by shrubs and trees. If not, with care, a new wetland landscape can be kept in good order, and a neglected one can be ‘recovered’ just as quickly, but each stage of that process must be done in the right order and at the right time. A wetland landscape of any type when grazed by cattle up to and into the water brings a whole new set of issues, and those relate particularly to water quality.
A number of issues need to be considered whether or not your pond is man made or natural. There are more ‘natural’ ponds in the landscape than one might think. We often think of ponds as purely man made.
- Avoid making all ponds appear the same – try to ensure ponds of different depths and in various stages of succession. ‘Succession’ refers to a pond that is new, one that is in the stages of transition and one that has evolved toward drying out and becoming a marsh. This of course depends on the size of landscape that you have.
- Information about the pond over time is important. Especially when you intend to make decisions on management. Some ponds are very stable. This is often the case in ponds that are seasonal I.E. Wet in winter, drying out in spring and summer which dramatically changes and controls the flora in the wetland.
- Where possible – create new ponds rather than dredge old ones. Dredging causes terrible damage and will destroy flora and fauna. It often has a negative long term effect on water quality. Leave silted ponds to develop naturally if you have the land area to do so.
- Never suddenly radicalize the management of the pond.
- Ponds chocked with vegetation are often rich in fauna. This is especially true with submerged vegetation. Be gentle in the care and management.
- Bear in mind that ponds that are part of an extensive ‘pond-scape’ may need different management than individual ponds. Allow a natural evolution to occur in the ponds, this will dramatically increase the conservation and wildlife value
- Where traditional and often attractive stock grazing is allowed (JMW. Turner paintings) the process of ‘change’ or evolution of the pond can be slowed, and can be beneficial, but that comes at a price – often low quality of water. Heavy poaching by cattle will create trampled muddy edges and contamination by dung from the cattle. If, in a larger pond cattle grazing is unavoidable, consider at least fencing them out of large areas.
- In any wetland the surrounding land use must be taken into consideration. Tracks, lanes and footpaths all generate large amounts of water run-off, and that brings silt. Avoid creating ponds that will collect agri-chemicals from surrounding intensively farmed pasture or crops. The same with areas in towns where oil, solvent or pollutants may wash into the pond water. Remember that with thought many problems can be ‘buffered’ by clever use of spoil and drains that will re-direct problems to traps and filters.
- Attractive though they are large numbers of waterfowl will achieve the same effect as cattle, mud and foul water. Again, fence and clever design can reduce this. Create areas where waterfowl will struggle to gain access.
- Creating new ponds is vital to the well being of us all. But, if you are planning a new pond that will have natural fill, water quality is essential, and at the very least should be satisfactory. Aquatic species are generally speaking mobile and natural colonization will occur rapidly. If you are considering creating a wetland, please bear in mind that you do so in an area where you will not lose an otherwise valuable habitat.
My work in wetland and marsh gardens and landscape
I have created, managed and cared for a number of lakes, ponds and wetland areas, from small garden ponds to a seven acre marsh and wetland landscape. One in west Herefordshire was a SSSI site; an ‘Alder Carr woodland’ and wetland; listed as such for the stream and small river that flowed through it and for the extensive swathes of Aconitum (Monks Hood) and other wetland species of plant.
I have worked with natural, traditional materials as liners (clay and chopped straw) and man made products, Butyl, and expansion water retaining powders mixed within the prepared excavation soils on sites too large for traditional liners or methods – all enhance a landscape and are important for wildlife. Wetlands and ponds, in any landscape bring a sense of peace and timelessness. They offer an opportunity to grow and establish plants that would otherwise be missing from the garden and therefore add a further dynamic expansion to it. To achieve that, good planting, where already present species cannot be used is essential. This is especially true of the many water lily varieties to be found, that will suit almost any size of pond or lake.